In a new, withering exposé about how easily Rotten Tomatoes, the popular review aggregator website, can be manipulated, it is revealed that a movie publicity firm called Bunker 15 paid for positive reviews for the 2018 Daisy Ridley movie “Ophelia.”
The firm compensated “a small number of blogs charge for fair reviews” (according to Bunker 15). The original the New York Magazine/Vulture piece cited internal company emails and critics. “The writer of a negative review says that Bunker 15 lobbied them to change it,” according to the Vulture report.
If the film garnered enough positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it would look more appealing to a potential distributor. Those positive reviews were valuable. Vulture also discovered that negative reviews of the movie weren’t counted.
As for the fate of “Ophelia,” a month after it was certified “fresh” IFC Films announced it had acquired the film for distribution in the United States.
Bunker 15’s founder Daniel Harlow denied the company acted as part of a conspiracy.
“We have thousands of writers in our distribution list,” Harlow told New York Magazine/Vulture. “A small handful have set up a specific system where filmmakers can sponsor or pay to have them review a film.”
According to the report, Bunker 15 purposefully targeted lower-profile critics who are likely underpaid and thus more susceptible to the scheme.
As filmmaker Paul Schrader, who started his career as a critic before becoming a filmmaker and whose latest film “Master Gardner,” has a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s “fresh!”), puts it later in the article: “The studios didn’t invent Rotten Tomatoes, and most of them don’t like it. But the system is broken. Audiences are dumber. Normal people don’t go through reviews like they used to. Rotten Tomatoes is something the studios can game. So they do.”